Go to any Pro Wrestling website and notice the names that are making today's headlines: Hulk Hogan… Ric Flair… Bret Hart… Sting… Undertaker… DX (that's Shawn Michaels and Triple H)… Kevin Nash… Scott Hall… Mick Foley… One would think it's a lineup for some 1999 wrestling show. Surprisingly enough the year 2010 is here. And while a whole new decade is on the rise, Pro Wrestling's stars of today… aren't…!
Is this due to today's superstar's lack of talent, or a mere nostalgia for the past…? And is this trend a good or bad thing for the sport of Professional Wrestling? These are some of the questions that we'll try to tackle in this article...
Before moving on any further with this topic I would like to make clear that I have no objection to this turn of events whatsoever. None. In fact I'm quite happy for it, if for no other reason than the simple fact that I saw it coming from a mile away. It’s all I can do now not to blow my own horn and say "I told you so", so there you go: Toot Toot…!
Seriously though, wasn't it obvious? Did anyone think for a second that John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, either of the Hardy boys, MVP, Jack Swagger, John Morrison, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, or any other flash in the pan had the talent, star power and charisma to outshine the stars of yesteryear…? True, some of them had that proverbial rocket strapped to their rear end and were force-pushed down our throats for the last decade or so *cough*John Cena*cough*, but they have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that even with plenty of face time of television, scripted promos, memorized catch phrases, choreographed matches, and tons of merchandise bearing their names and likenesses, it's real talent that makes a superstar and nothing but.
On the one hand, it would be unfair to judge today's generation of superstars for their shortcomings; it's not their fault that most of them didn’t find a place to properly learn their craft. It was Vince McMahon who during the WWF's expansion wiped out all the regional territories where wrestlers used to learn to work and talk in front of smaller crowds, so by the time one reached the national level on either WWF or NWA (later WCW) TV he was already a well rounded seasoned performers in the ring as well as on the mic.
Nor are they to blame for today's wrestling fan only accepting wrestlers with superhero-like physiques regardless of whether or not they can put on good matches. Most of today's wrestlers grew up watching the likes of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior on Saturday mornings, so it figures that when they got into the business they concentrated on attaining 'the look' rather than learning the basics of wrestling…and it paid off too! McMahon is known for pushing his big, built, muscle bound wrestlers to the moon, and if to so happens that these wrestlers can't work, talk, or lack in charisma, the WWE machine steps in with backstage agents to choreograph their matches, writers to place words in their mouths, and PR people to book them for as mainstream appearances possible to brainwash the masses into accepting their superstardom as an undeniable matter of fact. But creating in the process manufactured, almost artificial superstars, lacking the natural talent and ability the stars we grew up on had.
Was anyone surprised when the stars of this last Wrestlemania (WWE’s biggest event of the year) were Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, and Ricky Steamboat, the youngest of the three well into his forties…? I sure wasn’t…!
Never since Steve Austin and The Rock has any new comer had the talent to outshine the stars of the past, at least not in the heart and mind of this fan. Being the bitter old man that I am, I prefer kicking back with a DVD featuring older matches over watching the latest episode of Monday Night Raw any day of the week. I thought it was just me, but my younger siblings (who were born in the nineties) surprised me by commenting after seeing some of the older shows “This is a lot better that what’s on TV now…!"
The numbers never lie; For those who might argue that Randy Orton, John Cena and the rest are the greatest superstars who ever lived, just compare today’s viewership ratings to what they were during the peak of the Monday Night War era of the nineteen nineties to see how they’ve been steadily slipping. It's obvious that many wrestling fans are discouraged to the extent that many of them have given up on the sport all together and just changed the channel. You can only put so many bad angles on TV involving necrophilia, promoters blown up in their limousines, and little people courts before you start losing your fans for sure…!
Since winning the war WWE has been laid back. Unchallenged, its gotten lazy, and stopped offering anything fresh or new to keep wrestling fans interested in their product. On the contrary, WWE now is turning its back on wrestling fans by dropping that dirty word wrestling and replacing it with entertainment. In attempt to appeal to mainstream media Vince McMahon is bringing in Hollywood celebrities on a weekly basis, and turning WWE's flagship program Monday Night Raw into a cross over between Saturday Night Live and The Muppet Show...!
They've forgotten who they are…
On the other hand, North America's number 2 promotion TNA in its attempt to challenge WWE may just turn into WWE lite; borrowing many of WWE's concepts and introducing them into their own storylines and angles. Their tagline once was 'We are Wrestling', but they've spent pretty much time talking if you ask me.
Never the less, when the two big wrestling companies went head to head on January 4th 2010, they didn’t look at their young talent to being them ratings. They went back to basics, back to the old faces that wrestling fans are familiar with in an attempt to lure back old fans. WWE brought back Bret Hitman Hart to confront Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon TWELVE years after the infamous Montreal screwjob (you can read my thoughts about that here). They didn’t even sweat that their top guy John Cena won't be on that show…!
TNA brought in wrestling's most famous face of all time Hulk Hogan, and with him a whole cast of old wrestlers from the past: Ric Flair, Sting, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman (X Pac),The Nasty Boys, Val Venis, and the door is open for more to come, all in an effort to power boost their ratings…
Now, is this good or bad for today's Pro Wrestling scene…? A good question, but I think we'll all know the answers once the ratings for January 4th's head to head shows come in, but bottom line: The wrestling companies of America wouldn’t be spening all this money to feature old, over 50 performers, if the young ones were any good…!
Those were my 2 cents worth. If you don’t like what I said or have a different opinion let's hear it…! I'm looking forward to your replies...
Alaa ElSharif is a life long wrestling fan, all the way from Tripoli, Libya. Right now he's dusting off his old NWO t-shirt and getting ready to enjoy the ride…! He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org